Sunday, August 9, 2009

Food recommendations for GenCon

Some folks asked on forums, so I put together this list of food I recommend near the convention center in Indy.

As far as food goes, I have a couple recommendations:

* Buca de Beppo: A very nice Italian place a couple blocks from the center. Be warned that it's extremely popular so, expect a wait.

* The Circle Center Mall food court has a couple places I like. Currito is a burrito place that makes excellent burritos in a variety of flavors. And Maki of Japan has very good sushi for a mall food court!

* Ah-Barista, a nice little coffee & sandwich shop across from the convention center. We randomly picked it because it was close, and it was a pleasant surprise! I recommend the Portabella & Cheese Panini, especially for the vegetarians out there.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Official GenCon iPhone app is out!

Grab it from iTunes!

Free D&D stuff at GenCon

The most recent GenCon email newsletter detailed some of the goodies that Wizards will have available on the con floor.

First up, people who sign up for D&D Insider at the Wizards booth will receive a free D&D backpack. For those of you who really want to let your geek flag fly, I suppose!

They'll be pre-selling Adventurer's Vault 2 and the Dragon Magazine 2009 Annual, 100 copies per day, limit one per person.

Wizards is also heavily promoting their new free version of D&D Online, their Eberron-themed MMO. The game has changed to a free-to-play model, where you instead purchase special items and unlocks with real money, similar to many Japanese MMOs now. The GenCon promotion is that, when you buy any D&D product at the Wizards' booth, you get a free $5 DDO store gift card.

There's certainly going to be some nice incentives for the D&D fan at the con!

Friday, August 7, 2009

WotC Fansite Kit

Wizards has posted an official fansite kit. I haven't decide if I'll use any of it for this blog, but I'm going to look through the ZIP file.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

WotC Catalog 2010

A few weeks ago, I was at a local gaming store and noticed something curious: a Wizards of the Coast Spring/Summer catalog... for 2010! Someone had left it unattended on top of some books that were being prepped for the shelves, and none of the employees were around.

I pulled out my crappy cell phone and managed to snap a couple pics before I heard an employee coming around the corner. Only two of them turned out, and for some reason my phone won't transfer one, so I've just got the one shot of the Table of Contents:

From WotC Catalog 2010

As you can see, lots of planar-related stuff here.

GenCon is next week, and I'll be attending the Wizards' seminars. I'll post any news I get from there on this blog!

Saturday, May 2, 2009


Been a busy week. In addition to my normal three 12-hour shifts, I volunteered to do a fourth on Thursday. We're a touch short-handed right now, and I could use the extra money, so it was worth it. Of course, that afternoon the night shift person decided to call in.

Well, not so much "call in" as "come in to pick up her check and then tell us she's not coming in while she's at her workplace." x.x

Anyway, they couldn't get someone on short notice, so I volunteered to say a few extra hours until someone could come in. Wound up doing a 14 hour shift. On my day off.

Needless to say, I was basically useless on Friday. Lazed about, played some Rock Band 2. Finally got my (single player) band up to earning a jet plane, so I can play gigs outside the USA. Also decided to try drumming a bit... and basically got my ass kicked. Drumming is harder than I expected.

This morning, I've been doing a little writing. I've had a plan since last August to write out my own D&D campaign setting, but my typical lethargy crept in and I kept putting it off. I'm finally getting myself sorted out, and seriously working on this stuff again.

My first project is a new racial write-up. The plan is to create a 4-8 page PDF, which I'll sell online under my Bluegrass Geek label. Following that will be a new class, which is a bigger investment in time & effort, and will require some friends to do some playtesting. The final move will be to write out the campaign setting itself, which will include the new race (and a bonus "bloodline" race) & new class, plus feats, a few Paragon Paths & Epic Destinies, new "gods" and the actual world setting itself.

Depending on how well the race & class PDFs do, I'll either make the campaign setting a simple 32-64 page overview, or a full-sized Campaign Setting book & separate Player's Guide book.

I do plan on commissioning some artwork for these PDFs, but I'm going to have to read up more on creating my own company & the legalities involved (especially the D&D GSL).

Saturday, March 28, 2009

"What is it with this guy and eels?"

So a couple weeks ago I ran the second adventure for our D&D side-group. This was one of the few Dungeon magazine adventures adapted for Living Forgotten Realms play.

I had woven a few plot hooks for this adventure into the last one, so no one was too surprised when I described the scene. Though it is Midsummer, the air in Loudwater carries the chill of harvest time. Woodsmen have reported seeing strange, blue-skinned creatures and even blizzards in the deep woods. If the unnatural weather continues, the crops will die before they can be harvested, leading to famine. Some believe the cold is tied to the warlock Draigdurroch, who disappeared 30 years ago...

Spoilers for Menace of the Icy Spire!

The players were all too eager to go adventuring. In fact, I had to slow them down a bit to make sure they got all the information they needed! The town leader (who made a show of hitting on the tiefling warlord), asked that any magical tomes be brought back to her after the threat was averted. Once they were ready, the party set out for the tower they were told of... and ran right into a blizzard.

Luckily, the players had some good ideas of how to use their skills, so this skill challenge was a breeze for them. The group soon made it to the tower, a gigantic spire encased entirely in ice. The tower's stone itself was carved into the images of demons, completely encircling the building as if it were a funnel of devils ascending into the sky. Clearly, the owner was not putting out a welcome mat.

As the PCs approached the front entrance, one of the statues turned to look at them. Then, so did a few of the froglike, smaller statues lining the walkway to the front door. Needless to say, the tower's guardians were not happy with trespassers. The frog-guardians were little trouble, but the clay guardian that lept from the building proved dangerous: not only did it have some nasty attacks, but it could redirect attacks, tricking the characters into hitting their allies.

A brief rest, and the dwarf fighter hacked away some of the ice in front of the door. The main foyer was equally decorated in a demonic theme, with many evil-looking statues adorning the walls. Some of the statues had glass eyes which, upon inspection, proved to use a series of mirrors to show anyone looking in them the outside of the tower. Not only was the previous owner demented, he was apparently paranoid.

A pair of staircases led upwards, but the players elected to explore the ground level first. The first room off the left of the foyer was a simple office with some bookshelves. Everything inside is also coated in a thin layer of ice, keeping the contents perfectly preserved, if somewhat brittle. The only odd things of note in the room were an exquisite crystal statue of a demon lord and the fireplace, whose flames had frozen into an unusual blue ice.

The next room off the foyer was apparently a servant's quarters. Unfortunately, the servants had been home when the ice struck, their corpses frozen beneath the blankets as they lay on their cots. Another single fireplace, filled with blue frozen fire, sat in the corner.

Behind the foyer staircases was the kitchen. Like in the other rooms, everything was frozen, right down to the... jars of pickled eels? That threw my players for a loop. A small door in the kitchen led to the larder, which was full of freezer-burned stores... including a barrel of pickled eels. This led to my players wondering how many eel-based things they would find in this tower, and a lot of funny commentary. (Note: At some point, I'm going to start making audio recordings of these things.)

Off the right of the foyer was a large dining room. Of note, this room had two of the frozen blue fireplaces, but nothing else that seemed important.

Deciding to be cautious, the players proceeded quietly up the stairs. Our shadar-kai rogue poked his head up to peer into the next room. It appeared to be a large arcane laboratory, and had several icy elemental creatures standing about. With a signal to his comrades, the rogue burst into the room, surprising its occupants. Two of the ice creatures were large brutes with ice-mauls; one was a jagged thing with shards of ice it could throw; and the final one was off to the side, surrounded by a cloud of freezing mist and whirling ice shards.

The rogue made short work of the ice lancer, while the wizard kept the dangerous misty creature locked down in place with various spells until he could blast it to death. By now, however, several smaller ice creatures came scampering up the stairs into the room! While the other players kept fighting, the rogue quickly ran over and did a flip over the stair railing, dropping down to the first floor. Figuring the strange fireplaces were to blame, he ran into the dining hall and quickly disabled the first fireplace in it. By then, one of the maulers had come down the stairs after him, and another small ice creature emerged from the icy flames at the other end of the dining hall.

With some quick moves, the rogue dispatched the new creature and disabled the other fireplace. One swift dodge later, he avoided the mauler and ran across the foyer into the servant's quarters. He managed to disable this gateway-fireplace as well, but the mauler was now blocking the door out.

Luckily, shadar-kai can teleport short distances by making a short jaunt into the Shadowfell. He simple teleported into the nearby office room, leaving the mauler quite confused, and disabled the final fireplace.

By this point, the second floor had been cleared of enemies, and short work was made of the last mauler. Curiously, while all the ice creatures melted away, one of the mauls remained on the ground. This frost maul was claimed by the dwarf fighter, who was quite eager to put it to use. A quick inspection of the second floor made very little impact on their adventure, as most of the material was damaged by the ice. Also... there were no stairs. Instead was a small stepping disc just big enough to hold the party, which magically lifted up in the air and through an opening in the ceiling.

The room they lifted into was simply adorned with a desk & bookcase. In fact, there was no door... but there was a secret door hidden behind a badly damage tapestry. Stepping in, they discover a very luxurious bedroom & library, with a large central desk. Luckily, the wizard spots the magical ward on the desk and quickly disables it. Inside, the party discovers the journal and magical notes of the warlock Draigdurroch. It appears he was researching a new pact to forge with a being of darkness, and had upset the local fey. He scoffed at the fey's threats of retribution, which he had apparently underestimated.

Another secret door led to a small room with another lift-disc to the roof of the tower. The roof was flat and unremarkable except for some patches of ice... and a large, blue, glowing sapphire in the center. With a few insightful deductions, the party determined that this gem was the center of the icy curse, but that its power had become unstable. It would appear the unnatural cold drew the attention of icy things from the Elemental Chaos, who had tampered with the magical stone to spread their cold across the land. Being heroes, the characters couldn't let that happen. The dwarf used his maul to smash at the sapphire, putting a small crack in it.

That's when the gem flared brightly and a large, white-furred creature appeared in front of them. With a roar, the beast began attacking. The battle was furious and I would give a better description if I could remember the details anymore. ;) I do recall the wizard using a spell to knock the beast prone and keeping it pinned while the others struck it. At one point, they tried to knock it off the tower, but it didn't budge. Finally, after pounding on it long enough the party defeated the creature. As it gave out a last wail of pain, the sapphire also went dim and shattered. The curse broken, the icy shell around the tower collapsed with a thunderous roar and the clouds departed the skies.

Once the characters returned to Loudwater, they were regaled as heroes. The harvest was saved and the people were eternally grateful. Loudwater's town leaders were eager to go over Draigdurroch's journals and promised a grand celebration in the character's honor, as well as many rewards.

That takes care of Menace of the Icy Spire. Sunday, I'll be running the main group through an adventure in the Dalelands. Our small group will continue their journey in a couple weeks, where they'll venture into the Scepter Tower of Spellgard!

Friday, March 27, 2009

iPhone game quickie

Just a quick post. I'm trying to sort out exactly what I want to do with this blogspace, as my original plan kinda faltered. Will work on writing up a game report this weekend, before the next game. For now, here's a couple bits of iPhone gaming news:

The Blizzard Authenticator is now a free iPhone app. Instead of buying a physical dongle, you can just get the app for your iPhone/iPod Touch. Once synced to their servers, you can use it offline just as if it were the physical authenticator.

Wolfenstein 3D has been ported to the iPhone. It's available on the store for $4.99 and either uses on-screen controls, or the tilt-sensor.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Kentucky e-voting fraud manipulated voters, not machines

Six people have been indicted in a Kentucky scandal that involves rigging an election by manipulating vote totals in electronic voting machines. But the folks allegedly behind the scam relied not on high-tech hacking skills, but on old-fashioned southern charm.

read more | digg story

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Kicking in the door

So, this past weekend I ran D&D for a few folks. I haven't DMed before, so this was a new experience for me.

We're all in the RPGA, so we're playing in the Forgotten Realms setting for D&D 4th edition. runs a game with all of us, but he also wants to level up a character before GenCon in August. So, I volunteered to run a "side-group" just for that purpose.

My friends all made up new characters, and we elected to start a campaign based on some pre-published modules: first, the intro adventure in the back of the Forgotten Realms Campiagn Setting book, followed by the Scepter Tower of Spellgard mega-adventure.

"Spoilers ahead for "Barrow of the Ogre King"

Our group consisted of a shadar-kai rogue, a dwarf fighter and a tiefling warlord. We only had three players, but RPGA rules specify a minimum of four… so we fudged it with a communal PC (human wizard).

The PCs begin in Loudwater, a frontier town surrounded by woods and ancient ruins. The midday market is in full swing and our characters are milling around the various shops… when the city wall suddenly erupts in an explosion!

Goblins pour through the breach, attacking townsfolk. Without hesitation, our heroes leap into action. Our dwarven fighter does what fighters do best, wading right in and pounding goblins into the dirt. The warlord was good at forcing the goblins around the terrain and keeping the fighter alive. And the rogue was… well, being roguish. Ducking through doorways, throwing shurkien and backstabbing everything in sight. And the wizard was blowing up minions left and right.

Soon, it became apparent that the goblins were trying to reach the local magic shop for some reason. Between the wizard's grasping shadows spell and the shadar-kai rogue's ability to teleport, that got shut down real fast. The PCs subdued two of the goblins & finished off the rest, then set about saving the injured citizens of Loudwater.

A brief interrogation of the goblin leader ensued, whereby they learned the goblins were trying to retrieve an object stolen from them: a dagger carved from the horn of a large humanoid being called the "Ogre King." These goblins live in the Ogre King's burial mound & worship its body… and their leader claims to have a ritual that will allow him to ressurect the Ogre King.

This doesn't sound like a good thing, so the leader of Loudwater asks the heroes to put a stop to the ritual. And, thus, we have our plot hook! ;)

A brief trip leads everyone to the outside of the barrow. The path leads through a stone dwarven face, carved so that you walk through its open mouth. Beyond this gate is an open courtyard. Some investigation led the PCs to a secret door in one corner of the courtyard, exposing a ladder leading into the earth. One short climb later, and they found a door underground. This door opened to a rubble-covered chamber, its roof supported by very weak rotting timbers. Turns out, the center of the courtyard was trapped, designed to collapse into this pit and drop unsuspecting victims painfully into the barrow.

Just up a short flight of stairs from the rubble-strewn floor were more goblins in a stone-tiled chamber (with a neat "trap" involving a magic teleportation disc… that the PCs avoided like the plague). With surprise on their side, the PCs launched an attack. These goblins were no minions, however. In fact, two of them were extremely tough & equipped with heavy battleaxes! At least two heroes were nearly killed during this battle, but a combination of the warlord's inspiring words and the dwarf's "hammer CPR" kept them going.

Disaster was neatly averted when the dwarf spotted yet another pit trap in this chamber before he would have stepped into it. This pit was a shorter drop than the other, but contained four starving dogs that would've ripped him apart! With that out of the way, they were able to take down the last few goblins and catch a brief rest.

As a DM, this was a tough battle to handle. I screwed up by not sizing down the encounter for the smaller number of PCs, and I did have to fudge at least one roll to prevent a PC from certain doom. I generally didn't pull punches though, including when one of the battleaxe-wielding goblins nearly dropped the warlord to instant death. One of the real things that confounds a DM, though, is when PCs do exactly the opposite of what the adventure suggests.

For the next chamber, the adventure suggested that if the PCs tried to sneak through using Stealth, they could potentially slip past the enemies entirely, or at least get a surprise round. So, of course, they all elect to have the dwarf bash down the door with his hammer. o.o

This was a burial chamber that doubled as a shrine for the goblins. Two goblins were at a small statue making offerings when the door went ka-boom, so they came out swinging. That's also when the dwarf zombies came shambling out of the antechamber. And this is where the dice come in.

See, most of the zombies are minions (one hit kills a minion). The one "real" zombie was pretty tough, but had a special zombie-weakness: a critical hit kills it instantly. (Think "head shot.") Guess what the wizard rolled with his scorching burst spell?

So, that combat went shorter than I expected. They even managed to force one of the goblins to surrender with a good Intimidate skill check, and had him take the dogs from the previous rooms' pit with him when he left. This time, they didn't bash in the door to the next room…

This room was a bit interesting. Another teleportation disc, plus a large open pit with a set of stairs down into it, and several hobgoblins assisting the goblin hexer (a spellcaster). There was one goblin hiding by the doorway that smacked the first PC that stepped in, and the hexer actually had another goblin "stored" inside the teleporation disc that he brought out as reinforcements. Again, though, the heroes were smart and managed to shut down the enemy's most dangerous tricks. They almost managed to knock one of the hobgoblins into the pit, too.

Finally, they descended the stairs into the pit. At the bottom, they find the goblin shaman in front of the Ogre King's sarcophagus. Remember what I said about "not going by the adventure's recommendations" earlier?

The adventure was written with the idea that the PCs would at least try to talk with the goblin, and get some information from him. They could even attempt to negotiate with him. So, what do they do?

The shadar-kai rogue says, "We want to help! Here, I'll give you the horn!" He makes an insanely high Bluff skill roll, walks up and stabs the shaman in the neck… with the ritual horn-dagger! Preventing an anti-climax, the shaman had over 200 HP, so the final battle ensued. Which effectively meant bashing the shaman into a corner and beating him to death, while he tried to blast them with area-effect spells.

In the end, the heroes subdued the shaman and dragged him back to Loudwater. And there was much rejoicing. (< Monty Python > Yaaaaay. < /Monty Python >)

Overall, I think everyone had a good time. We'll have to run one more adventure next time before we can dive into Scepter Tower of Spellgard, and I think this extra adventure will be just as much fun.